Monday, March 07, 2011

Pitching Effectively

I'll be attending a writers' conference and have a 10-minute appointment with a literary agent. Do you have any suggestions on what the pitch should - and shouldn't - include? Is there something people do that really annoys you? Anything that's particularly effective?

The most important thing your pitch should include is your blurb. Really, it doesn’t need to be that different from your query letter, a short, compelling description of your book. Everyone is different, very different, when it comes to what makes a successful pitch. I think it’s Janet Reid who has posted on the subject, and what she’s looking for is different from what I want to see. All that being said, if you give a short, compelling pitch you’ll win an agent over every time.

Here are my tips for pitching successfully.

  1. Bring along your query, a short 1-2 page synopsis, and the first chapter of your book. Have it out when you sit down in case the agent finds it easier to read off that.
  2. When you sit down, introduce yourself and take a moment to ask the agent how she’s doing or how she’s enjoying the conference. In other words, a few seconds or a minute of small talk tends to break the ice and make everyone a little more comfortable.
  3. Start your pitch with your title and genre, then give your blurb. Your blurb should not go on and on. It only needs to be a written paragraph, and if it’s easier for you to read it go ahead and read it.
  4. Have questions. In other words, use your time wisely. When authors pitch to me I’ll often ask questions about the book, but I always ask the author if she has any questions for me. Have some. This is your one-on-one time with an agent, so use it. Ask questions about her, the agency, the business of publishing. Think of it as a pre-interview. If she calls to offer representation, you already have a sense of how well you talk and how comfortable you are with her.
  5. Relax and enjoy yourself. 10 minutes can go quickly.



D U Okonkwo said...

It's interesting that a pitch is quite different from a query. As it's spoken out loud, a pitch seems to need to grab an agent's attention the way a movie trailer grabs the viewers.

Thanks for the post!

L.G.Smith said...

I'm doing a pitch in April, so thanks for covering the topic today.

Ben said...

Good advice as always. I like how you're not wrapping your posts and go directly to the point. I don't comment often but I have your blog on speed dial for reference

Laura Campbell said...

Thank you so much for this post. I will be attending ThrillerFest in NYC this July and participating in AgentFest. Now, I can start getting myself ready!

Anonymous said...

Also, check out the "Pitch Lines that Don't Work" link on this page.

As always, great advise here!


Melissa (ATX) said...


If I should ever afford to attend a writers' conference, I'll keep these points in mind, Ms. Faust. The conferences sponsored by the writers' league cost $400 to enter, and that's pitching to one agent. I was shocked. I'm curious to know -- are these conference fees par for the course?

Karen Duvall said...

Melissa, keep in mind that a pitch appointment isn't you're only opportunity to talk to an agent at a writers conference. Depending on the conference, many agents are social and enjoy mingling with attendees. They might hang out at the bar to chat, or attend a conference party, or you might get seated by one at dinner. Just remember that conferences offer much more than pitch appointments. Save your pennies and attend one someday, you'll love it! The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference is $350, or it was when I attended 2 years ago. Many writers have made lucrative contacts at conferences.

Melissa said...

Karen, there's a conference in Denver that I'm itching to go to in May. Alas, I made the decision to put a complete kibosh on discretionary spending until the recession ends.

::Looks at ten-year calender::


Laurie Starkey said...

I just attended a conference in Dallas and pitched to an agent. I walked in, make a joke and we talked for a few seconds then I gave her my 'elevator pitch.' It was not more than three sentences. She asked some questions, as did I and it was great. She asked for some chapters. They're just normal people too, so just be yourself when you're pitching. Oh, I made sure to introduce myself to her at a social gathering before the pitch - that helped too.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

I've been working on pitches over at the Pitch University site ( ) and there is so much great info there. Lessons and feedback.

And in case you're wondering, I'm not involved with this (free) site in any other capacity than an enthusiast!